Hours after the Pentagon’s press secretary warned Syria not “to even consider using chemical weapons,” U.S. President Barack Obama issued a stern warning to President Bashar Assad on the issue.
Obama, who a speech on his foreign policy to veterans in Reno, Nevada, said Assad would be held accountable if he made the “tragic mistake” of using his stockpile of chemical weapons.
“Today we're also working so that the Syrian people can have a better future, free of the Assad regime,” Obama was quoted by Reuters as having said.
“Given the regime's stockpiles of chemical weapons, we will continue to make it clear to Assad and those around him that the world is watching and that they will be held accountable by the international community and the United States should they make the tragic mistake of using those weapons,” he added.
Earlier on Monday, Syria admitted it has chemical weapons and said it will use them if attacked.
Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi “assured” the world that it has secured chemical weapons, which it previously has not admitted to be in its possession but never would be used "inside Syria."
“No chemical or biological weapons will ever be used, and I repeat, will never be used, during the crisis in Syria, no matter what the developments inside Syria,” he said on state television. “All of these types of weapons are in storage and under security and the direct supervision of the Syrian armed forces and will never be used unless Syria is exposed to external aggression.”
In response, Pentagon press secretary George Little told reporters, “They should not think one iota about using chemical weapons.”
“We have been very strong in our statements inside the US government on the prospective use of chemical weapons and it would be entirely unacceptable,” Little said.
President Shimon Peres said on Monday that Israel will do what it must to protect itself from Syria's chemical weapons.
The president told the CNN news network, “The use of chemical weapons is internationally forbidden. What do you do when someone violates the law? You fight against them. You stop them.”